On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS December 30, 2013 # 469 “Auld Lang Syne”
After further review…After enduring a shaky relationship, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) reconnected on New Year’s Eve while the perennial question “Should auld acquaintance be forgot…” rang out. Harry interjects to Sally, “I never understood what that means. I mean, should we forget our old friends, or what?” Sally doesn’t have a clue! Two of my auld acquaintances left us this year, but their memories will remain forever.
Hollywood Park Race Track closed on Sunday, December 22, 2013 after 75 years. My brother Peter was born the same year, and started working at Hollywood Park as a parking lot attendant while still in college. After graduating he served as a steward and then assistant to the Chairman of the board. Peter’s successful career lengthened at Golden Gate Fields, where he has been the general manager for over 30 years. His success in racing, I’m sure he would agree, is only surpassed by our father, Jim Sr. Dad began his work in thoroughbred racing in the mid-forties after a successful career as an educator and sports official.
Jim Sr. was a steward at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, and Del Mar race tracks for twenty years. He had never ridden a thoroughbred horse, or any other horse for that matter, and yet earned the respect of real horseman– owners, trainers, and jockeys alike– with his quick study, his warm personality and his good judgment. Dad died on July 5, 1965 on his way home from Hollywood Park after a full-card of eight races that day. A fellow steward was driving him home when Dad had a massive heart attack in the car. Dad was fifty-nine!
The other significant closure for me happened, December 23rd, when the San Francisco Forty-Niners played their final regular season home game at Candlestick Park. I was honored to have been the referee in the first ‘Niners game played there on August 8, 1971 against the Cleveland Browns. Officiating so many memorable games there, I had the privilege of sharing the turf with John Brodie, Joe Montana, and Steve Young as well as many other legendary players.
Of course, January 10, 1982 stands out. I was the referee in the game that featured “The Catch”, now part of the NFL’s timeless lore, that allowed the ‘Niners to defeat the ‘Boys and go on to their first Super Bowl. Quarterback Montana still claims “Whadda mean ‘The Catch’? It’s called ‘The Throw’! It was my throw that made that play work, not the catch!” Joe and Dwight Clark have a great laugh about that. Whatever it is called, the ‘Niners fans believe it stands out as the best game ever played at the ‘Stick! But closure arrives for everything, and life moves on.
Will you keep your memories sacred, but continue to move forward in life?